Poor, poor Sansa Stark. To be honest, some days I'm not sure who has it worse on Game of Thrones: the members of the Stark family that was murdered over the years or Sansa, who's managed to stay alive but has basically been tortured every day of her life since the death of her father, Ned, back in Season 1. She was forced to put up with the tyrant Joffrey's sadistic treatment and, just when it seemed she had finally escaped, she pretty much immediately fell into the hands of someone who may be even more psychotic: Ramsay Bolton, her new husband (and rapist, but that's another story for another time). Basically, things are pretty rough for poor Sansa, but it wasn't always this way.
In rewatching the first episode of the series, I was struck by just how long ago Season 1 seems after all that's happened. There's the fact that Sophie Turner, the actress who plays Sansa, has grown up quite a bit, of course. However, I'm referring more to just how much has happened over the course of Game of Thrones five seasons that makes "Winter Is Coming" seem downright pedestrian. All was well in Westeros, Ned Stark was the unchallenged Warden of the North and lived with his family, happily ensconced in Winterfell. Not that that happiness lasted long, mind you — by the end of the episode, the plot is already set in motion in ways that would prove terrible for the Stark family.
But back to Sansa. It was a simpler time for just about everyone in the Seven Kingdoms, but never is that peacefulness more obvious than when it comes to the children. Sansa's biggest worry in the first episode of the series was probably what her annoying little sister Arya would do that day to annoy her. Arya, of course, was the tomboy, the unruly one, while Sansa valued order and took her role as a noblewoman rather seriously. She seemed to, for all intents and purposes, believe in the structure of the kingdom and had no interest in rebelling against it. Not then, anyway.
Sansa's fate is sealed within that very first episode, when her hand is promised to Joffrey Baratheon, the heir to the Iron Throne — or so everyone is to believe, anyway. While the idea of kids having to get married, especially to people they barely even know, would be terrifying to most, Sansa seems to really take to the idea, appearing almost thrilled by the development since it signifies that all is going the way it's meant to in her orderly life. Instead of seeing it as a burden, Sansa is immediately devoted to her future husband and, upon moving to King's Landing when Ned is appointed Hand of the King, finds life in the South far more glamorous than her previous arrangement. Obviously, she soon came see all wasn't what it appeared to be.
Of course, all of us change as we get older, and it's natural that Sansa would have become a different person as she matured even if she hadn't been put through absolute hell. However, I was struck when looking back at the first episode of the series at just how childlike Sansa truly was, holding ideas about the world she lived in that were so misguided that she couldn't have possibly imagined just how wrong she was. But that ignorance is truly one of the great gifts of childhood, and considering all that has happened since, I think it's fairly safe to say that gift was ripped from Sansa before it should have been.
What will become of Sansa Stark — who, despite her years of torture, retains strong within — is anyone's guess. Her current situation, holed up as a prisoner at her former home with Ramsay Bolton coming only once a day to have his way with her, certainly seems bleak. But there's still a glimmer of hope for her, and I can't wait to see what comes next.
Images: HBO (1); Giphy (3)